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TIPPs for Tolerating Distress at Work

Whether it’s an overbearing boss, an imminent deadline, or a staggering to-do list, stress at the office is unavoidable. Navigating daily work frustrations can be challenging, especially if you already have difficulty in regulating your emotions. If you are prone to angry outbursts or tearful meltdowns, the DBT skill you need is TIPP.

The T in TIPP stands for Temperature. When you’re upset, your body responds by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure, which heats you up. In order to cool down - both physically and emotionally – try grabbing something cold. Splashing your face with cold water, opening a window, grabbing a refrigerated drink from the break room, cranking up the AC, holding an ice cube, or placing your wrists under a running faucet will trigger the “dive reflex,” a set of physiological reactions that activates the parasympathetic nervous system and forces your body into a lower reactivity. Once you are able to return your body to a state of calm, you will then be able to make more effective choices.

I is for Intense exercise. Oftentimes, strong emotions give us strong urges to act. Your anger may tell you to punch your computer, throw the stapler, or another negative behavior, but doing so may cost you your job. Instead, try a few minutes of intense exercise - running up and down the stairwell on a quick break, dropping down and doing ten pushups, lifting heavy books, or desk chair yoga - to expend that energy. Exercise, even short bursts of it, increases oxygen flow which helps decrease stress levels. Plus, it’s much harder to stay upset when you’re physically exhausted!

The first P stands for Paced breathing. It’s as simple as it sounds: controlling your breath can help reduce emotional distress. If you’re stuck, try a method known as “box breathing.” Inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, and hold for four seconds. Repeat until your body begins to feel calmer and you are able to think and act more effectively.

Finally, the second P is for Paired muscle relaxation. When under stress, the muscles in your body tense. By purposely tightening and relaxing different groups of muscles, your body will start to relax. Start at your toes and work your way up to your head. Your heart rate and breathing will slow down as relaxed muscles require less oxygen. The best thing about this is that it is easy to do at your desk or in a meeting without anyone knowing!

Utilizing these TIPP skills when you reach an emotional breaking point at work will bring you a step closer to Working Mind, enabling you to cope effectively and make constructive choices that will benefit you and your career.

Written by Krystyl Wright, LCSW 


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